If the idea of eating at a hotel restaurant has you thinking you’ve made an odd choice, you might want to reconsider, especially in Charlotte’s center city.
This wasn’t always the case. Hotel restaurants have often carried with them a stigma, suggesting they offer convenience in exchange for low quality. For travelers, hotel dining is a phone call or an elevator ride away, a corporate charge that won’t be questioned by accounting, an easy walk from the parking lot on the way up to the room for the evening. In 2015, an AOL writer proclaimed why one should never eat at a hotel restaurant, even when traveling. Locals won’t eat there, so why should you?
But all of that has changed. Executive chefs and sommeliers have taken over. Local names are on reservation lists any given evening at Charlotte’s luxury hotel dining spaces. Bon Appetit recently called hotel restaurants “a property’s best amenity, no room key required.”
Forchetta Italian Kitchen
As for the city’s newest hotel kitchen, an Italian spot uptown has an award-winning chef at the helm, bringing us a taste from his home of Sorrento, Italy. It offers room service and everything, but unless you’re a hotel guest, you’ll likely be blissfully unaware of the connection. That is, until you go looking for the restroom — you’ll find it in the hotel lobby.
Forchetta Italian Kitchen, which quietly opened its doors in June in the former Café Sienna home, is right there on the ground floor of The Holiday Inn Center City.
Executive chef Luca Annunziata, formerly of Passion8, left his own company to join up with the hotel, where he’s worked since last year. “I wanted to work for someone who would share my concept and my passion, but they would pay the bills,” he said. “And I run this like it’s my own restaurant.”
His inspiration for Forchetta’s menu came straight from his home country. “The menu is rustic but with a twist,” Annunziata said. “My goal was that even if you had a traditional dish made in Italy, where I am from, it would be the same at Forchetta. There are some dishes that I put a twist on — a blend of rustic meets modern.”
The restaurant serves the hotel’s guests via room service and banquets, yet it offers a sidewalk entrance, inviting the public inside. “We treat this as an independent restaurant,” Annunziata said. He likened it to what Chris Coleman has done with Stoke, inside of the Marriott Center City — but with a street presence. Coleman has recently announced his departure from Marriott — at the end of this week — as he moves over to NoDa, in his new role as executive chef of The Goodyear House.
Forchetta translates into fork, which must mean “get to the ordering options, already.” So here’s a sample of Forchetta’s menu:
(1) Italian Wedding Cake Martini
Dixie vodka, amaretto, white creme de cacao, pineapple, cranberry
(2) Gnocci Siciliana
Pomodoro, eggplant, smoked mozzarella, parmigiano-reggiano
(3) Elk Meatballs
Saffron aurora sauce, ricotta salata, pine nuts
(4) Polpo Alla Griglia
Octopus, grilled peaches, cannellini beans, celery leaves, sherry emulsion
(5) Casarecce Carbonara
Carmelized onion, pancetta, black pepper, egg cream sauce, pecorino romano
Grilled lamb T-Bone, roasted cipollini onions, broccoli rabe, sun-dried tomato demi-glaze
Seared duck breast, strawberry balsamic vinegar, polenta cake, wilted spinach, cherry emulsion. Shown at top.
(8) Chocolate Risotto
Served with a sugar puff pastry
230 N. College St.